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James V. Hatch

playwright and minister, was born in Wichita, Kansas. Little is known about his parents, although his mother is said to have been an active reformer and a poet. Anderson completed four years of school (the only formal education that he ever received) before his father moved the family to California to take a job as a janitor in the post office. The following year Anderson's mother died, and at age twelve he left home to become a newsboy, selling the Telegraph Press on the corner of Third and Market streets in San Francisco.

After working as a porter on the railroad, Anderson worked for the next fifteen years as a bellhop in various San Francisco hotels. During this period he also became a temporary convert to Christian Science. One afternoon in 1924 he saw a performance of Channing Pollack's moralistic drama The Fool and knew immediately that he ...


Claudia Durst Johnson

Born in Philadelphia, Anderson sang in a church choir and at age nineteen began formal voice training. At twenty-three, she made her debut with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. She later toured in concert in many European and South American capitals. Her foreign acclaim prompted an invitation to tour in the United States, where for two decades she was in demand as a performer of opera and spirituals. In 1939, because she was an African American, Anderson was barred by the Daughters of the American Revolution from performing in Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., an event that exposed the depth of racism in America. Her open-air Lincoln Memorial concert that Easter, arranged by Eleanor Roosevelt and Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, drew an audience of 75,000 and was broadcast nationally. On 7 January 1955 Anderson became the first African American to sing with the ...


Robert Todd Duncan was born in Danville, Kentucky. By the time he auditioned for Porgy and Bess creator George Gershwin in 1935, Duncan already held a master's degree from Columbia University and had been a professor of voice at Howard University since 1931. Eschewing the traditional Spirituals that other performers had sung as audition pieces, Duncan sang an obscure Italian aria, and Gershwin offered him the part. Duncan did not immediately accept, however. As a classically trained Opera singer who years later described himself as a “stuffed shirt” and who thought of the popular Gershwin as merely a composer of show tunes, Duncan insisted on first hearing Gershwin's music for the opera. The music convinced Duncan to play Porgy. His performance in the original Broadway production in 1935, as well as in revivals in 1937 and 1942 earned him lasting acclaim from reviewers who considered ...


Courtney Q. Shah

jazz singer. Ella Jane Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Virginia. Her father passed away shortly after she was born, and in the 1920s, her mother and her new boyfriend, Joe Da Silva, moved the family to Yonkers, New York. To help the family, Fitzgerald worked odd jobs, including running errands for gamblers and prostitutes. Her earliest passion was dancing, and she and her friends liked to take the train to Harlem to attend talent shows at the Apollo Theater.

In 1934, Fitzgerald and her friends decided to enter the Apollo talent show themselves. Originally she planned to dance, but after seeing that a popular dance act preceded her turn, she changed her mind and decided to sing. Having heard the music of Louis Armstrong and the Boswell Sisters, Fitzgerald mimicked popular styles with a voice that was perfectly pitched. She sang Hoagy Carmichael's Judy and ...


Jonathan Z. S. Pollack

Born into a poor Russian-Jewish family in Chicago, Benny Goodman studied clarinet at Jane Addams's Hull House. A musical prodigy, he performed professionally at age twelve and in a traveling band at sixteen. As a teenager, Goodman became famous for playing “hot” clarinet solos, improvising like the New Orleans musicians who had invented jazz. Success in studio and radio work led Goodman to form his own touring band in 1935, which received mixed reviews until it played the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles on 21 August 1935. Teenagers who had heard Goodman's broadcasts packed the club, and “swing” music was born. While no one agreed exactly what “swing” was, promoters quickly dubbed Goodman the “King of Swing.” On 16 January 1938 he became the first jazz bandleader to play Carnegie Hall, the country's premier high-culture musical venue.

Goodman was one of the first big name bandleaders ...


Pamela Blackmon

dancer, was born in Summit, New Jersey. The names of her mother and father are not known. An only child of poor but supportive parents, Guy developed an early interest in dance which extended to a love of reading and writing poetry. Guy loved to fantasize and no doubt dreamed of becoming a famous dancer. One of her early idols was Ruth St. Denis, an early pioneer of modern dance. St. Denis and her husband, Ted Shawn, formed the Denishawn School, which had offices in both Los Angeles and New York City.

A note sent by Guy to St. Denis during a concert intermission prompted a meeting between the two after the performance, launching a friendship that spanned several years. The note became the first of many exchanged between the two from 1923 to 1940 even after they began to work together Given Guy s fascination ...


C. M. Winston

artist, curator, art historian, filmmaker, writer, and activist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only child of Howard Pindell and Mildred, both educators. By the age of eight Pindell already aspired to be an artist, and she attended Saturday drawing classes at the Fleischer Art Memorial.

Pindell graduated cum laude with a BFA from Boston University and earned an MFA from Yale University's School of Art and Architecture in 1967. She moved to New York City in 1967 after graduating from Yale and she worked primarily as a painter of nonobjective and figurative works during the early years of her career That year she landed a job at the Museum of Modern Art MoMA as an exhibition assistant in the department of national and international circulating exhibitions At MoMA she rose through the ranks from curatorial assistant to associate curator in ...


Pamala S. Deane

actor and performer, Hilda Moses was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Emil, an engineer, and Lydia Marie (Webber) Moses, a homemaker. One of twelve children, as a child she predicted to her siblings that one day she would be on the stage.

After completing her early education at St. Margaret's Academy, she graduated from South High School in Minneapolis in 1938. She studied teaching and dramatics at the University of Minnesota, having earned a two-year teaching fellowship, but she left school due to lack of funds. In 1943 she graduated from Hampton Institute, Virginia, earning a BS. At Hampton, she made her acting debut as the character Cathy in a staging of the Emily Brontë novel Wuthering Heights.

In 1941, she married Williams Simms and took on the stage name Hilda Simms Two years later she arrived in New York where she pursued ...